Cookbook Review: The Art of Beef Cutting, Butchery For Beginners

Cookbook Review: The Art of Beef Cutting, Butchery For Beginners

If summer burger boredom is setting in, might we suggest brushing up on your butchery skills with the new photo-heavy The Art of Beef Cutting? You know, because we could all stand to delve a bit deeper into our ribeye (technical name: longissimus dorsi) butchery technique.

Forewarning: This is not a "pretty" meat guidebook -- unless you happen to get your kicks from photos of "heavy white or opaque connective tissue from lean subprimals." In layman's terms, that annoying white silver skin skimming the meat's surface that is such a pain to cut off pot roasts and short ribs.

As author Kari Underly, owner of a meat marketing and PR firm, tells us, you are actually "denuding" that meat when you are trying to rip off that connective tissue any way you can. Don't tell Underly, but when all else fails with our blunt chef's knife, we've been known to resort to serrated knives, and even kitchen scissors.

The Art of Beef Cutting is not exactly meant for the average home cook. Then again, many home cooks these days are hardly average. As the subtitle suggests, this is A Meat Professional's Guide to Butchery and Merchandising. And so inside, you'll learn how to cut a porterhouse as well as the difference between oxymyoglobin (when ground beef is exposed to oxygen the meat gets a cherry red hue that Underly says customers associate with freshness) versus metmyoglobin (with too much oxygen exposure, raw ground beef takes on that unpleasant tan hue). And should you care to go all out Lindy & Grundy, how to calculate your profit margin in the "Cutting for Profit" chapter.

There are also some highly entertaining, circa 1960s training manual-worthy figure drawings illustrating pretty basic on-the-job safety tips, like how to properly lift a heavy box -- not hunched over, but with your knees bent, in case you never had a summer job -- and how to stretch properly. An odd inclusion, if for nothing more than their elementary level. If someone is yielding a cleaver, we hope they have already mastered the art of box-lifting. Another slight annoyance is the Introduction, which reads like a sales pitch (not surprising, knowing the author's career) directed to culinary schools and grocery stores/butcher shops.

But if you really want to get into the depths of that sirloin, this is a good book for beginners. The best sections are the detailed butchery chapters that each explore a different cut of meat (chuck, rib, loin). There are plenty of step-by-step photo illustrations for making each cut (no, they will not win any blog awards, but they do their culinary textbook job), as well as handy photos on useful topics like denuding. Which, by the way, appears to be much easier when using a "very sharp" filet knife. Now we know.

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